At a TouchDown Club meeting many years before his death, Coach
Paul "Bear" Bryant told the following story:
I had just been named the new head coach at
Alabama and was off in my
old car down in South Alabama recruiting a prospect who was supposed
to have been a pretty good player and I was havin' trouble finding
the place. Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a
small sign out front that simply said "Restaurant. "
I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me.
Seems I'm the only white fella in the place. But the food smelled
good so I skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole
man in a tee shirt and cap comes over and says,
"What do you need?" I told him I needed lunch and what did they
today? He says,
"You probably won't like it here, today we're having chitlins,
collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you
don't even know what chitlins [small intestines of hogs prepared as
food in the deep South] are, do you?" I looked him square in the eye
"I'm from Arkansas, I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like
I'm in the right place." They all smiled as he left to serve me up a
big plate. When he comes back he says,
"You ain't from around here then?"
I explain I'm the new football coach up in
Tuscaloosa at the
University and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was and he
says, yeah I've heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good. And
gives me directions to the school so I can meet him and his coach.
As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not
too big to be flashy, but a good one and he told me lunch was on him,
but I told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay.
The big man asked me if I had a photograph or something he could hang
up to show I'd been there. I was so new that I didn't have any yet.
It really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked for, but I
took a napkin and wrote his name and address on it and told him I'd
get him one.
I met the kid I was lookin' for later that afternoon and I don't
remember his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him when I
met him. I had wasted a day, or so I thought.
When I got back to
Tuscaloosa late that
night, I took that napkin
from my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget
it. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me.
The next day we found a picture and I wrote on it, "Thanks for the
best lunch I've ever had."
Now let's go a whole buncha years down the road. Now we have black
players at Alabama
and I'm back down in that part of the country
scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and I
forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway,
he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his
heart set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed and go on see some
others while I'm down there.
Two days later, I'm in my office in
Tuscaloosa and the phone rings
and it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says,
"Coach, do you still want me at Alabama?" And I said,
"Yes I sure do." And he says OK, he'll come. And I say,
"Well son, what changed your mind?" And he said,
"When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and
said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but
Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of
you and has ever since y'all met." Well, I didn't know his granddad
from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy was and he
said,"You probably don't remember him, but you ate in his restaurant your
first year at
Alabama and you sent
him a picture that he's had hung
in that place ever since. That picture's his pride and joy and he
still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in and had
chitlins with him."
"My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you to
remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your word to
him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach me
more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess
I'm going to."
I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were
always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost nuthin'
to do the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose
your good name by breakin' your word to someone.
When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's
still running that place, but it looks a lot better
now; and he
didn't have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that woulda made
Dreamland proud and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and
don't think I didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a
I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these
lessons in mind when they're out on the road. If you remember
anything else from me, remember this. It really doesn't cost anything
to be nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable.
~ Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant ~
Editor's Note: Coach Bryant was in the presence of these few
gentlemen for only minutes, and he defined himself for life.
Regardless of our profession, we do define ourselves by how we treat
others, and how we behave in the presence of others, and most of the
time, we have only minutes or seconds to leave a lasting impression.
can be rude, crude, arrogant, cantankerous, or we can be nice.
Nice is always a better choice. I like what Stephen Grellet,
French/American religious leader (1773-1855) said, "I expect to pass
through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any
kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now. Let me not
defer it, for I shall not pass this way again."